The story Broadway’s first Black leading man will soon be available on DVD and VOD.
The Black Emperor of Broadway, starring Shaun Parkes, will come to iTunes, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, Amazon, FandangoNow and cable affiliates Sept. 15, and DVD Oct. 6. The film, which also stars Liza Weil, John Hensley, Nick Moran and Nija Okoro and directed by Arthur Egeli, focuses on Charles Gilpin, who was cast by Eugene O’Neill as the lead in O’Neill’s play The Emperor Jones. The play made Gilpin one of the brightest stars of the 1920s.
According to the official synopsis:
Based on a true story, Charles S. Gilpin (Shaun Parkes) was the first African-American dramatic star in a lead role in a stage play during a time where roles of color were previously played by white men in blackface. As Gilpin rose to fame and recognition, tensions were high between he and playwright Eugene O’Neill (John Hensley) which ultimately lead to parting ways, though Gilpin’s name is etched in Broadway history forever.
Egeli said in a statement how Gilpin’s career, as well as Gilpin’s story being lost to time, affected him.
“I grew up learning to revere and honor Eugene O’Neill as the father of American Theater – until I learned about Charles Gilpin,” he said. “The talent of Charles Gilpin made Eugene O’Neill a household name. Why have we forgotten him?”
Lise Romanoff, Vision Films CEO and managing director, said the film “shines a light on the relatively unknown story of Gilpin, an actor who should be celebrated for breaking down racial barriers on the stage.”
“This film puts the man who changed Broadway history into the spotlight he deserves,” Romanoff continued.
The award-winning film was honored at the Kansas City Film Festival for Best Narrative Feature, and has also been screened at the Greenwich International Film Festival, Brooklyn International Film Festival, Macon Film Festival and the Harlem International Film Festival.
Photo credit: The Black Emperor of Broadway